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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Fuse 8 n’ Kate: Swimmy by Leo Lionni

I am very proud of myself. I managed to go this entire episode of the podcast without mentioning Rainbow Fish once. We do discuss Frederick briefly, but how can you not? In this episode I discover that no one has ever written a fun background story on how Leo Lionni came up with this book. I was shocked. I figured that I could rely upon my usual source of information, 100 Best Books for Children by Anita Silvey but old reliable gave me bupkiss. Instead we discuss whether or not Lionni was good at making art with cut potatoes, whether fish have eyebrows, and how hard it is to say the term “Mom pun” repeatedly.

Listen to the whole show here on Soundcloud or download it through iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, PlayerFM, or your preferred method of podcast selection.

Show Notes:

Kate was unnerved by the fact that the bodies of these fish aren’t connected. “Of course Swimmy escapes. He has a whole body!”

I point out, in turn, that the man should get extra points for portraying blue, rather than red, lobster under the sea. Mmmmm. I wanna eat that guy.

Kate is convinced that Swimmy is meant to look determined here, but if you’re a fish then you have no eyebrows, right?

I do have to give Kate this. The second time this happens, he really does look like he’s frowning.

I looked everywhere. I could not find a fish in the real world that has eyebrows. Knowing how weird nature is, I figured I had a 50/50 shot at finding something. What I discovered instead is a trend called “fishtail eyebrows” and now I cannot unsee what I saw.

If you would like to see the Reading Rainbow where Tyne Daley reads Amazing Grace, I located the episode here.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. I sometimes get the feeling that Kate is just cranky and will hate any book that she reads that week. Consider: the same Kate who has been saying “but what’s the LESSON here?” for two years suddenly flips to “I don’t want to learn anything!” Hey, we’re all human.

    So. Things I thought when listening this week:

    1 – Reading builds vocabulary! It’s one of the reasons that reading to children is so important! They see a jellyfish, they hear the word “medusa” and now there’s a new word to think about. When they run across it again, it won’t be unfamiliar.

    2 – These are the reasons that Swimmy is great (reasons which you touch on briefly and then seemingly disregard because… other reasons?): It’s about overcoming grief and still being brave, it’s about figuring out how to work together, it’s about not letting fear hold you back, it’s about exploring the world and learning new things, it’s about how being different can be a benefit (thought this is admittedly not a revolutionary concept in picture books, at least not these days). And it teaches all those things in a very simple straightforward story.

    Thanks, as always, for the great podcast. Whether I’m nodding along or saying “BUT WHAT ABOUT….!?!?!” as I listen, it’s the first podcast I listen to every week.